The Rafters and the Streets

February 21, 2017


Today, after an unprecedented struggle both in the Legislature and on the streets outside it, 33 McNeil Liberals stood in their places and supported forcing a contract on the teachers of Nova Scotia. Some spoke half-inaudibly, with their heads down. Others answered to their names with swagger. All are complicit in one of the most profoundly regrettable chapters in the history of both democracy and education in Nova Scotia.

The resistance to this immoral legislation has been both heroic and historic. No one who was present will forget Sterling Belliveau’s address last Wednesday evening which continued as Liberal members walked out of the room and turned his mic off, about the truth that you have neither democracy nor decency when the people are not heard.

No one will forget the crowds that swelled by the hundreds every hour from midnight that marked the beginning of the first province-wide teachers’ strike in the history of Nova Scotia, until a crowd some 5,000-strong protested in the solidarity of outrage. We were all moved by the steady streams of teachers who made their way to express gratitude for the tenacious and principled support of the exhausted but dug-in NDP MLAs.

At the same time, the government’s defence of the indefensible has ranged from the authoritarian to the bizarre.

How else but authoritarian can you describe the McNeil Liberals’ abuse of their majority to vote down our multiple motions that simply asked that every member of the public registered to make a presentation at the Law Amendments Committee, should have an opportunity to do so? The Liberals closed the Law Amendment process, so that only 68 of the approximately 400 registered presenters actually got to speak.

And how else but bizarre could you describe the Premier’s ducking out to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday, to deliver an address in which he said that everything in Nova Scotia is going absolutely “in the right direction,” regardless of what people (he said this!) “holler from the rafters” or “scream” out “from the streets.”

From the rafters and the streets, some things evidently are apparent that can’t be seen through the Liberals’ self-satisfying fog. Things like classrooms–as attested by the dozens of teachers who they didn’t manage to silence at Law Amendments–without adequate specialists, supports or textbooks. Things like the reality of teachers, who have been saying, “Help, classes are too large. Help, we’re drowning in an ocean of data collection.”

All of this can be addressed and solved–but not while rigidly fixating on balanced budgets.

We can unleash an army of specialists, education assistants and teachers who will address the crisis in our classrooms. We can bring in class-size caps that will give our teachers and our students the best chance to succeed. And we can do this the same way that in our households we get a car, a roof, or an education: by investing in order to put ourselves in a better position in the future.

The McNeil Liberals say we can’t.

Not true.

We can.

In solidarity and hope,